Changes to Expect

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Despite the drop in hormonal production in the ovaries as midlife approaches, many women experience little physical changes with menopause. Among the most notable are irregular menstrual periods. Other women may encounter a variety of change, including hot flashes, night sweats, poor sleep, mood swings and diminished sexual intimacy. These changes may be a result of menopause, aging or both. These changes are natural and perfectly normal.

Experts believe the most common menopausal change involve vasomotor activity. Vasomotor relates to the nerves and muscles that cause the blood vessels to constrict or dilate. The most common vasomotor symptom is hot flashes (also called “hot flushes”), which can cause red flushing around the face and neck, sweating and eventually a cold chill. Experts believe nearly 70% of women during perimenopause or menopause experience hot flashes, These symptoms can last for several years and may contribute to poor sleep patterns, stress and irritability. The good news is that hot flashes generally stop on their own over time, typically in 3-5 years.

While mood changes are commonly reported among menopausal women, research has not found a clear link between menopausal hormone changes and mood. Experts believe mood swings may result from sleep deprivation or changing hormone patterns.

Sexual intimacy and feelings are a natural part of life. Many women remain sexually active during menopause, although sexual desire generally declines with age. A loss in desire during menopause may be the result of inadequate sleep, mood and physical changes, such as vaginal dryness.

Menopause affects everyone differently. In addition to the above changes, women may experience weight gain, diminished joint mobility and flakey, less elastic skin. Cardiovascular health or bone health typically diminish at menopause, in many cases, notably.

References

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Menopause RX

Minkin, et al (1997), What Every Woman Needs to Know about Menopause

National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF)

North American Menopause Society (NAMS) Various Publications

Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause (2006)

U.S. National Institute on Aging (NIA)

U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH)

U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

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